Born in 1934, White’s first boating memory goes back to age six and the joy he experienced at being allowed to join his father Jack in the T Class Taiping sailing home from the annual Kohimarama Yacht Club (KYC) picnic. A builder by trade, Jack White was a skilled yachtsman and boatbuilder. Together with Ivan Andrews he built the 14-foot skimmer Prefect, which blitzed everything in its class. In 1940 he was manpowered into Percy Voss’s yard for the war years. Despite this, he still found time to build his son a P Class, Scamp.
By now Murray had become good friends with Des Townson, also born in 1934, and together with Peter Nelson, the trio built numerous model yachts.
“I could see Des and Peter had a better eye than I did; it was no surprise to me they both became yacht designers,” recalls White.
By the end of WWII, White and Townson both owned Ps and raced each other every weekend during the summer; Westhaven races on Saturday and KYC races on Sunday.
The pair were never far apart on the water, but Townson won the Auckland P Class trials for the Tanner Cup in 1948 and 1949 with White runner up both times. Townson would go on to win the 1950 Tanner Cup.
Both left school aged 16 and sold their Ps. While Townson began refitting an elderly mullet boat, after a stint in a Z Class White began crewing for Alan Barclay in Silver Ferns.
A couple of years later White bought a fifth share in his father’s keeler, Scout, which the Ewen Bros had designed and built in 1909. White bought his father out the following year and skippered Scout to several wins including an Auckland-to-bay of Islands race and an Auckland-to-tauranga race.
Meantime his father had commissioned Jack Brooke to design Glennis, which was built by Dave Marks.
The first Auckland to Suva race was to be held in 1956 and White joined Tom Buchanan’s Woolacott keeler, Wanderer, as crew. To everyone’s surprise, Wanderer won the race on both line and handicap.
“Our time remains a record to this day, the slowest ever time by a winning boat,” chuckles White.
That same year White married Noeline (nee Smith) and began building a house in Panmure. Sailing wise, he crewed for Jim Davern on the Stewart 34 Princess, while Townson generously loaned the White family his Woolacott keeler Storm and his first keeler design, Serene, for holidays afloat.
It wasn’t until the early 1960s that White again owned his own boat, a Townson Mistral dinghy. It cost £95, a significant sum in those days, which White raised by raiding Noeline’s family benefit account. “That £95 was one of the best investments we’ve ever made in family fun.”
Over the next 18 years he owned five Mistrals and won four class championships. While White’s reluctant to sound his own trumpet, according to a reliable source what he